The following article was prepared by ACSA’s Member Assistance & Legal Support Team.
The ACSA Member Assistance & Legal Support Team, under the direction of Margarita Cuizon-Armelino, often receives calls from our members requesting assistance in dealing with California Commission on Teacher Credentialing inquiries.
These inquiries are typically due to complaints that have been filed or letters written to CTC from parents of students, staff, community members or the member’s school district (which may be required by law).
The ACSA Legal Support Team — John Almond, Sharon Dezutti, Joe Jones, Janet Morey, Gary Rutherford, Bill Tschida and Lloyd Wamhof — have outlined a recommended process to follow if you receive an inquiry from CTC regarding a complaint that has been filed against you.
Over the past five years, 60 members have contacted our team for assistance in responding to a complaint filed against them with the CTC for misconduct. Note: The CTC does not address performance complaints.
The next steps are as follows:
1. Get ACSA’s help
• The first step is to go to the ACSA website (www.acsa.org/legalsupport) to complete and submit the online Request for Assistance form. One of ACSA’s Legal Team Advocates will reach out to you at the phone numbers you provide. The Advocate will most likely put you in touch with one of our ACSA panel attorneys who will assist you through the process. We understand the anxiety a complaint of this nature causes and want to assist you from the very beginning. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Your Advocate will explain the three levels of legal support available to you as an ACSA member.
2. Initial proceedings
• Upon receipt of a report of misconduct, the commission obtains and reviews all the documents initially available.
• After consideration of the documentation the CTC staff will decide whether to close the case.
• If the case is not closed, the Committee of Credentials (COC) will send out a Letter of Inquiry. You have 30 days to respond to the letter. It is critical that you respond within this timeline. Your ACSA attorney will help guide you in your response so that it is concise and factual.
• A CTC investigator will gather more documents, memorialize in writing statements from relevant witnesses, and prepare a detailed and comprehensive report. Based on the information gathered the investigator will make determinations as to whether or not the claims of the alleged acts of misconduct are sustained or not sustained. This report will be provided to you and to the COC.
• The COC will conduct the first level of review based on the investigative file. That review can lead to a decision to close the case or to proceed to a formal review.
3. Formal review — the interview session
• The COC’s formal review consists of an interview session with you. The COC is a seven-member panel consisting of appointees and representatives from designated educational groups. The COC will set a date and time for you to appear by phone or in-person. You must inform the COC in advance if an advocate or legal counsel will be with you during the session. You may request approval for any witnesses that will appear on your behalf. The COC formal review session is held in Sacramento at the CTC office.
• All testimony at the interview session is under oath. At the interview session, COC members will ask you questions based on the investigative file. You will also have an opportunity to make a three-minute opening and three-minute closing statement. Your advocate or legal counsel may not obstruct the proceedings by way of objections or instructing you not to answer. She/he can only offer support and help guide or clarify the hearing panel’s questioning. However, your legal counsel may also give a short three-minute closing statement.
• Whoever initiated the complaint may be present during the interview session to listen in. The complaining party may not speak to you or ask you questions.
• The COC will consider all the testimony and the investigative file.
• The COC will send a written decision to the credential holder within 14 days stating whether it is closing the case or recommending adverse action regarding your credential.
• If the COC recommends adverse action, you may accept it or appeal it.
• Even if the COC makes a decision to close the case the complainant still may make a request for reconsideration. If that occurs the COC will inform you and give you a deadline date to respond in writing to the reconsideration.
• Thereafter the COC will decide whether to continue with its prior recommendation or change it.
4. Recommendation to the CTC and administrative hearing
• If the COC recommends adverse action, it will present it to the CTC for adoption. The recommendation may be adopted without further proceedings if the credential holder fails to give notice of a request for an administrative hearing. Notice of a request for an administrative hearing must be made within 30 days after notice.
• Administrative hearings are conducted according to the administrative hearing rules of the Administrative Procedure Act and the California Government Code. All hearings and deliberations of the CTC and COC shall be in closed sessions with only CTC and COC members, staff members, the credential holder, counsel and material witnesses in attendance. However, all final actions taken by the CTC shall be made public.
• You have 30 days to appeal the disciplinary action to the full commission.
As an administrator, it is always advisable to keep good records and documents, including chronologies of incidents that have the potential to result in a later complaint.
For credential holders, the CTC adverse actions are:
• Private admonition,
• Public reproval,
• Revocation of credentials, or
• Temporary suspension of credentials. Reinstatement from revocation or suspension is possible after one year if the CTC finds that the person was rehabilitated.
Engagement with the CTC may potentially affect your career. We want to emphasize again the importance of reaching out to our ACSA Member Assistance & Legal Support Team if you receive an inquiry concerning a complaint filed against you with the CTC. We also want to thank ACSA panel attorney Linda A. Albers for her recent successful assistance to two of our ACSA members in a COC interview and for her significant input and review of this article.
To access members-only legal support, please fill out the form at www.acsa.org/legalsupport. You can also access this form by clicking on the “HELP” button on the ACSA app. Upon receipt of your request, a staff member will confirm membership and connect you to an advocate. Please allow 24 hours for a response.